FTL: Faster Than Light is a bit of an indie darling. It was one of the first games to use Kickstarter to effectively fund it’s development and to see actually see the light of day (looking at you Double Fine). It’s a real-time strategy game about captaining a ship through interstellar space while being chased by fleet of Rebel ships. It’s basically every sci-fi nerds wet dream. Divert power from the medbay to use an extra laser. Open the bay doors to suffocate a fire. Skip through the galaxy encountering alien creatures, bandit ships, and automated drones.
While the biggest feather in their hat has always been their open worlds, Bethesda Game Studios’s games always begin with a linear and scripted introductory sequence before you’re let loose into the open world. In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion you begin in a jail cell and proceed to fight through a dungeon and sewers, before escaping. In Fallout 3, your character has lived in an underground nuclear bomb shelter known as Vault 101 all their life, before a series of events forces them to leave their home and face the unknown world outside.
It may seem like a counterintuitive design choice to begin with a set path for the player if the rest of the game emphasizes freedom of choice, but it does serve a purpose. These intro sequences do three important things: they allow the player to learn basic game mechanics like combat and speech in a controlled environment; they give the player time to learn about the world, characters, and themes of the game without being dropped headfirst into the world and feeling lost; and, most importantly, by initially limiting player exploration, they serve to make the reveal of the open world much more powerful. Emerging from the sewers in Oblivion, or from Vault 101 in Fallout 3 were both awe-inspiring moments. You simply had to stop and look around, reeling in the notion that everything laid before you was waiting to be explored. These moments are what Bethesda games do best. That feeling of truly being in a world bigger than you can imagine. A world teeming with life and stories that you can only hope to discover.
But why doesn’t Skyrim‘s reveal feel like that? At least in my experience, leaving the caves beneath Helgen and seeing Skyrim for the first time felt simply empty and uninviting, nothing like the moments from Oblivion and Fallout. It has a similar linear intro sequence and subsequent reveal of the open world, but being set free into Skyrim doesn’t have the same impact as in Oblivion or Fallout.
POSSIBLE SPOILERS FOR STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS, IRON MAN 3, AND MAN OF STEEL BELOW. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.
Summer is winding down and except for a couple of big budget releases late in the year (Thor 2, Hunger Games 2, The Hobbit 2), most of the year’s major blockbusters have been released. And, wow, have they been underwhelming.
I try to get out and see most of the big releases of the year, but as a college student with limited funds I still have to pick and choose what I see. So I haven’t seen Pacific Rim or The Wolverine yet, but to be honest, despite being directed by Guillermo Del Toro, Pacific Rim never really caught my interest and The Wolverine has had a mild reception from both critics and comic fans, so while I won’t judge it, I can say that I’m okay with waiting to see it.
The big three blockbusters of the summer as I see it have been Star Trek Into Darkness, Iron Man 3, and Man of Steel.